To P, or not to P… that is the question. The P word, that is.
When it comes to my own novels, I very much beat about the bush (pun intended) when it comes (there’s another) to the sex scenes, but one person who isn’t afraid to give it to her readers (I’ll stop now) is my wonderful friend/ author Kierney Scott.
Here’s what Kierney had to say about how you should refer to vajayjays in books…
I am going to just come right out and say it: I don’t like the word pussy. There, I said it, or wrote it actually, but my point remains the same. The word makes me cringe. Most people have words they don’t particularly like. Word on the street is that “moist” is like nails on a black board for some people. Me? Not so much. I think it sums things up quite nicely…and it reminds me of cake…mmm cake…
The vast majority of women I know hate the word “cunt”. Again, not bothered, not even a little. I don’t use it a lot, but if someone says it in front of me I am not going to pull a face and tut loudly. I might have a wee look round to make sure Baby Girl is not in earshot because I am fairly certain other parents would be a bit annoyed if my seven year old teaches their child that lexical jewel.
But back to pussy, and my profound dislike for the word. For anyone else, this would be a non-issue: don’t like a word, don’t use it. But here is where things get tricky; I write about sex, well relationships actually, but sex is a big (or small as the case may be ) part of it. Friends, vaginas are pretty darn important for sex, not all sex, but the kind of sex I write about. I don’t use euphemisms because I don’t particularly enjoy them. I want to know exactly who is putting what where and how everybody is feeling about it.
In theory I could use the word vagina. In real life that is my go to word. In my house, there was never any talk of flowers or fifis or any of the other names people use for female anatomy. We call it a vagina, because…well that it what it is called and it is vital that children know the names of all their body parts. My daughter did however think penises were called bonuses, and we did not correct her immediately because it was kind of adorable.
But vaginas? They are always vaginas.
So when I sat down to write my first romance novel, there was no question; I was going write about penises and vaginas. But then I started writing and I soon discovered they don’t work (the words not the body parts). They are just too clinical. I was not writing a textbook, I was writing a romance novel, and clinical was not something I was striving for.
At first I came up with the clever solution (note to non British readers, that was sarcasm) of not using ANY word to describe a vagina. I had heroes sliding into heroines, maybe into her wetness if I was feeling fancy, but for the most part they were just sliding like a baseball player into home base. Eventually I realized this was stupid for many reasons, not least of which was the ambiguity. Where exactly was this guy sliding? Again another stroke of pure genius (again sarcasm): I would mention the heroine’s cervix. This works. I still use it, but only when the sex is sore, because having your cervix battered by a randy man is going to be a bit nippy.
So what do I call it, these magical lady bits? I would quite happily use the much maligned “cunt” word, but as I said before women really seem to hate it and I want people to enjoy my books. It would be a shame if one little word ruined a reader’s experience. So I had a good long think. Yes I pondered vaginas for quite a while (it is job related so it is totally not weird) and I finally realized I don’t have to like the word pussy.
I cannot stress how momentous this was for me. It was right up there with the “aha” moment Newton had with the apple. Friends, we are talking epic here so let me say it again: it doesn’t matter what I think about the word. Why? Because I am not my characters. My preferences and prejudices aren’t those of my characters. I don’t know why it took me so long to see it in regards to pussy. I have always written characters that are very different than me. I am a teetotal vegetarian, but I have my characters eating steak and drinking whisky. My characters routinely make decisions I would not make and pray to deities I don’t believe in. It stands to reason they would use words I don’t.
So I did it. I cringed a little as I typed the double “s” and I had to close my eyes as my index finger struck the “y” but I did it. So yes, I am now a member of the pussy posse. It happened in Book 3 of the Firing Line Trilogy (Crossing the Line). If memory serves the aforementioned body part was clenching in anticipation…as they do…
So now, dear readers, I must ask your advice. What word(s) would you use for female anatomy if you were writing a romance novel. I would really love to know.
Kierney’s latest book, Blurring the Line, is out now.